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Analyzing Two Mid-Stakes Poker Hands Played By Doug Polk

by |  Published: Jul 17, 2019


The Upswing Poker Lab is a poker training course taught by Doug Polk, Ryan Fee, and other top poker pros. The Lab is updated regularly with in-depth learning modules, theory videos, and a wealth of information to make you a better poker player.

By Ernie Gorham

One of the best ways to get better at poker and win more money is to watch what the best players are doing and try to figure out why.

That is what we will do here today, so keep reading to get a glimpse inside the head of one of the best, Doug Polk.

Hand 1: Giving Up and Winning Anyway

In this session recorded for members of the Upswing Lab training course, Doug plays $3-$6 and explains his thoughts as he plays. The first hand starts with the cutoff open-limping and the button raising to 4.5 big blinds (BBs). Doug is next to act with ADiamond Suit 5Diamond Suit in the small blind and re-raises to 11 BBs.

There are a few reasons for this raise:

  • The button player is likely opening a wide range of hands here, particularly after the cutoff open limps indicating they are a weaker player. This means the button will have to fold a lot of their weaker holdings to the reraise. These weak holdings still have equity against us, and when they fold preflop they instantly surrender that equity. That is a huge win, especially out of position.
  • Even when Doug does get called, A-5 suited has good equity versus villain’s calling range. It will even be ahead of some hands. For example, A-5 suited is a 57-43 equity favorite vs K-Q suited.
  • The fact that Doug has an Ace makes it less likely that villain has some of his strongest holdings, like A-A and A-K. Doug having an ace makes it half as likely that villain has pocket aces.

Note: This is an example of a fairly advanced poker concept called blockers, which is covered in-depth in one of the lessons inside the Upswing Lab training course. Joining gets you access to the blocker lesson along with 245 hours of coaching videos and 259 preflop charts. Click here to learn more!

Both the cutoff and the button call the raise, making the pot 33 BBs. The flop comes KClub Suit JHeart Suit 3Spade Suit and Doug elects to check.

You could make a case for continuation betting here due to our range advantage (i.e. we can have A-A, A-K, K-K and J-J here while the other players shouldn’t). However, there are other hands in our range that are better candidates to bluff.

When bluffing, you generally want to pick hands that have a chance to improve on later streets. Some better options include:

  • A-5 suited: While it may not seem like much, having a backdoor flush draw increases your equity significantly and gives you a lot more favorable turn cards.
  • Q-10 suited: Having an open-ended straight draw gives you eight outs to the nuts.
  • A-3 suited: While bottom pair does have some showdown value, betting could get better hands to fold like fours through tens or possibly even a pair of jacks. You also have five outs to improve to two pair.

Additionally, our bluffing frequency is tied to our value bet frequency, and we don’t have that many value bets on this board. This means we don’t need too many bluffs here.

Both players do check behind and the turn is the 10Diamond Suit. Doug decides to bet 11.5 BBs.

This hand makes a much better bluff candidate on the turn because:

  • Both players have showed weakness by checking behind on the flop.
  • We have a gutshot and blocker to the nuts.

Both players fold and Doug wins a sizable pot with no pair!

Now, on to the second hand.

Hand 2: Flopping the Nut Flush Draw in Position

The hijack opens to three BBs and Doug calls on the button with ADiamond Suit 8Diamond Suit. Both blinds fold.

Usually we prefer three-betting over cold-calling because it allows us the opportunity to win the pot preflop. However, cold-calling also has some merit because:

  • We will have position the entire hand and thus we will over-realize our equity.
  • It gives weaker players and hands a chance to enter the pot from the blinds. This is especially good when we hold suited aces because it increases the likelihood of a flush over flush situation.
  • It allows us to play a wider range of hands than if we used a three-bet or fold strategy.

This time both of the blinds fold and Doug sees a flop of 5Diamond Suit 4Diamond Suit 4Club Suit. The hijack player bets six BBs into a pot of six BBs. Doug elects to call.

While it may be tempting to raise with the nut flush draw here you need to remember a couple of things:

  • We only bluff to balance out the times we have value hands. On this board we have few value hands so we need very few bluffs.
  • When choosing flush draws with which to bluff-raise with it is usually better to use the lower draws with less showdown value. You can learn more flush draw tactics by downloading this free guide.

The turn is the QClub Suit and villain bets 10 BBs into a pot of 19 BBs. Again Doug chooses to call because:

  • If he raises and gets jammed on he may have to fold, giving up all the equity he has with his flush draw.
  • He still has some showdown value. If his opponent is bluffing with worse than Ace high Doug can still win unimproved.
  • He is in position. This guarantees Doug will get to value bet or raise when he does make his flush.

The river is the 4Spade Suit and villain checks. Again Doug checks behind, as he really can’t represent too many hands for value and like on the turn still has some showdown value.

Unfortunately this time Villain had pocket queens, but you can see that Doug lost the minimum with the line he took.

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